Teen found at rest stop remains in Kansas custody

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An Oklahoma teenager found at a rest stop last week remains in police protective custody.

"He's absolutely safe," said Greenwood County Sheriff Heath Samuels of the 17-year-old boy.

Today, a judge had a closed court hearing to determine where exactly he will stay. Since this is a juvenile case and sealed, no further details about the proceedings were available. 

Samuels said they have been in contact with a family member in Oklahoma.

"He's completely safe. That's the main thing we want to ensure and we will ensure that at least until the criminal investigation is closed," said Samuels.

The Beaumont rest area custodian called 911 on Thursday, before 6 a.m. of the report of a suspicious person that did not have identification and could not speak. The Sheriff's Office later determined the boy is "possibly autistic and non-verbal."

"It was difficult. So, it was pretty nerve-wracking those first two hours," said Samuels.

For nearly 15 hours, Samuels and his staff used various methods to identify the boy. Ultimately, posts on Facebook made the difference.

"It was social media that identified this child," said Samuels.

A woman who shared the KAKE News post wrote on the comments, "A former student of mine. I called and he has been identified."

But for nearly a week, no one has come forward to take the child back to his last known address near Tulsa.

Samuels said there are still many unanswered questions.

"We received an overwhelming amount of tips and leads to look at different areas but some of them don't pan out. So, we've been following ones that are necessary in an attempt to find out the why and how he ended up where he ended up," he said.

He encourages people to call the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office to help with his ongoing investigation.

"In the Kansas borders, if somebody seen in a gas station or someone seen him at a Walmart, something. I would love to hear the story of who he was with and why and what time," said Samuels.

The Greenwood County Sheriff's Office phone number is (620) 583-5568.

Investigation ongoing after teen with special needs found near Kansas rest stop